Breastfeeding is beautiful. But the start is often stressful.

“I would like to share my story with all moms to be and young moms who are newly breastfeeding for them not to give up at the first bump. I was kind of accused at the hospital that I wanted my baby to starve and that my milk will never be enough for him. They tried to convince me to switch to formula. Even the people around had the same view. I was about to collapse thinking that I was attempting to make my baby starve to death. Thanks for Nadiya’s precious swift support I didn’t give up to the surrounding negative influence. My baby boy is now almost one month old and “god bless him” he has gained one kilo already though he is exclusively breastfeeding. Thank you again, Nadiya..” , Sandra Nasrallah, a post on the wall of “Breastfeeding in Lebanon” Facebook group.

Every expecting mother who decides to breastfeed has two main questions on her mind: “Will my milk come? and “Will it be enough?” This is absolutely normal. What’s not so normal is that almost every woman who gives birth in a Lebanese hospital will be pushed to believe that she does not have enough milk and should start giving formula (powdered milk) soon after birth. Physiologically only less than 3% of all women are truly unable to have (enough) milk for their babies. The rest 97% are meant to be great breastfeeding mothers!

The first myth, that breastmilk might “not come”, disappears with the knowledge that lactation starts way before birth! Production of colostrum, early milk, begins in the 5th-7th month of pregnancy and stays there till birth and few days after it! So if you noticed your breasts changing and increasing in size during pregnancy, then you can be sure – your milk WILL come because it is already there by the time your baby is ready to be born!

The second myth that mother’s milk is often not enough for her baby (especially in the early days after birth) can be dismissed with the simple explanation below of how small the stomach of a newborn baby is. It is true, colostrum, early milk during the first 3-5 days after birth, comes in small quantities, but it comes in exact amount of what a baby is ready to digest! So in brief, colostrum is the only food that a healthy, full-term baby ever needs!

Stomach capacity of the newborn A 1 day old baby’s stomach capacity is about 5-7 ml only, or about the size of a small pebble. Interestingly, researchers have found that one-day-old newborn’s stomach does not stretch to hold more. Your colostrum is just the right amount for your baby’s first feedings!

By day 3, the newborn’s stomach capacity grows to about 22-30 ml, or about the size of a “shooter” marble. Small, frequent feedings (every 2 hours or oftener) assure that your baby takes in all the milk he needs and stimulates milk production for the following days.

Around day 7, the newborn’s stomach capacity is about 45-60 ml, or about the size of a ping-pong ball. Continued frequent feedings (about every 2-3 hours) will guarantee that your milk production meets baby’s demands.

Why colostrum is better for my baby than formula?

Colostrum is a special milk transparent to golden in color, thick and sticky. It could be called “magical” – so rich it is in amazing qualities.

1.   Best nutrition in the right amount: low in fat, high in carbohydrates, protein, and antibodies to keep your baby healthy. Very easy to digest. Low in volume (measurable in teaspoons rather than ml), but high in concentrated nutrition for the newborn.

2.   Prevention of jaundice (yellowness of the newborn): has a laxative effect on the baby, helping him pass his early stools, which aids in the removal of bilirubin responsible for jaundice.

3.   Natural vaccine: provides large amounts of living cells which will defend your baby against many harmful agents. The concentration of immune factors in colostrum is much higher than in mature milk! Also contains antibodies (IgA & IgG) and leukocytes, protective white cells, that destroy bacteria and viruses.

4.   Substance that creates healthy digestive track: seals the newborn’s intestines with a barrier which will protect the baby from foreign substances and reduce the risk of allergies to foods that the mother has eaten.

5.   Guarantee that your white milk will “come” in large amount: emptying the breasts from colostrum stimulates production of mature white milk which will gradually increase in volume around the 3rd or 4th day after birth.

In those first few days of colostrum it is extremely important to breastfeed your newborn at least 8-12 times each 24 hours, and more often is even better. This allows your baby to get all the benefits of the colostrum and also stimulates production of a plentiful supply of mature milk. Frequent breastfeeding also helps prevent engorgement (condition when your breasts become swollen and painful).

Early days are stressful but short.

You might be a lucky mother whose relatives, friends and doctors all support breastfeeding and know a lot about it. However, most likely, you will receive plenty of pressure instead to give up breastfeeding and start supplementing. By all means, ladies, stay strong! Keep your baby with you (request “rooming-in” in the hospital), breastfeed often and on demand, stay away from bottles and pacifiers, and as a reward, your white milk will come in no time within 3-5 days after birth and in large quantity! The first week after birth is the most challenging, but after it (if you did not start giving formula), breastfeeding will be easy and simply amazing!

And please, don’t try to check or measure how much colostrum you have after you give birth! J Squeezing with hands and pumping is useless in determining anything! Often only a baby will be able to remove this special thick milk from the breasts efficiently!

And remember, the more you learn about breastfeeding, the more equipped you will be for the days after birth and the pressure around. Attending a breastfeeding seminar might be of great value to you, like it was for Sandra, currently a happy, fully and exclusively breastfeeding mother of  a healthy baby boy Alex; my friend whom I met a few months ago at one of the seminars and whose comment you read in the beginning of the article! I’ll be waiting to hear from you!

-Nadiya Dragan El-Chiti,
Breastfeeding Counselor and an Experienced Nursing Mother
Trained and Certified by World Vision in “Exclusive Breastfeeding”

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